Martin Ludlow read the tea leaves early. On Wednesday, March 8, the former Los Angeles City Councilman pleaded guilty to a charge that he conspired with the head of a school workers union to illegally divert union funds into his 2003 election campaign. The move was no surprise, as Ludlow already had announced his intent to cop a plea. Under the terms of the agreement, he will pay $40,000 in fines and court costs, and accept three years probation, plus a four-year ban on holding elected office. In addition, he agreed to plead guilty to one federal felony charge of conspiring to embezzle funds from Service Employees International Union Local 99 to pay six campaign workers. As part of that deal, he will pay $36,000 in restitution to the union, pay $105,000 in fines to the City’s Ethics Commission, and accept a 13-year ban on serving as a union leader.
Ludlow, 41, was a fast-rising star in Southern California labor and political circles. He had left the City Council last year to head the 825,000-member Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. He resigned from that latter post last month in announcing his acceptance of a plea bargain offer. “This is another step in accepting responsibility for judgment errors I made,” Ludlow said outside the courthouse with his wife, minister and three attorneys. He also faces some unfinished, and uncomfortable, business. He has agreed to work with federal prosecutors in their case against Janett Humphries, formerly president of Local 99, which represents school workers for the Los Angeles Unified School District. Humphries, in additional to working with Ludlow in the campaign-fund diversion scheme, is accused of embezzling union funds to pay for a half-dozen Ludlow campaign staffers, Ludlow’s cell phone service, and airline trips for herself, family members and a friend. (Los Angeles Times, 3/9/06).